Ed Davey takes on “sexist dinosaur” Philip Davies with humour

It’s not often I’ve felt the need to thank Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley for anything. I am kind of glad, though, that he felt the need to write to Ed Davey on House of Commons paper to complain that we didn’t use an all-women shortlist when we selected Bobby Dean as our candidate for Carshalton and Wallington, because Ed’s blistering, beautifully crafted response showed a new side to him.

Davies’ attitude is surprising given that he’s actively campaigned against measures to protect women for some time. Back in 2017, Laura Bates wrote a brilliant article in the Guardian outlining some of the worst. She said:

He has previously described feminists as “zealots”, voted against equalities legislation, argued against equality targets in the workplace and once tabled a private member’s bill that would have repealed the Sex Discrimination Act 2002. Last year, he spoke at a conference organised by the Justice for Men and Boys party, which is known for presenting petty “whining feminist” certificates to women’s rights advocates, and promoting inflammatory, misogynistic articles on its website such as one entitled “13 reasons women lie about being raped”.

Charming.

Now, I have always been in favour of all-women shortlists, but the fact is that they were so successful that we are not allowed to use them any more because our Parliamentary party in Westminster is 2/3 women. I don’t think it is fair, given the huge democratic deficit women face. There are only 222 women out of 650 in Parliament. It just isn’t good enough when your all-time high is 34%.

Ed just let Davies have it in return:

Writing on party paper, way more appropriate for the purpose than Commons stationery, Ed reminded us all of Davies’ prior views and expressed and pleasure that he may have finally seen the light:

I can only imagine that your interest has been triggered by a “Road to Damascus” moment and a realisation that we live in 2021 not 1821. Making a transition from sexist dinosaur to someone who champions the rights of women will not be easy for you. The list of people you need to apologise to is long.

He went on to suggest that Davies’ motivation may be far from embracing the feminist cause:

Perhaps it is the threat of the Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives in Carshalton and Wallington, with only 629 votes between us? Maybe it is because of the energetic campaign being fought by our energetic parliamentary spokesperson Bobby Dean who is fighting the Conservative cuts to St Helier Hospital? Or perhaps the vision of an orange hammer crashing through a blue wall at the next General Election is keeping you awake at night?

 

I like this spicier Ed, and going by the way various women’s groups that I’m in erupted in a chorus of approval, so do many others. More, please.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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4 Comments

  • Brad Barrows 23rd Oct '21 - 11:27am

    I have always believed that allowing women to stand as candidates in all seats while restricting the rights of men to stand as candidates in some of those seats is blatant discrimination. The only fair strategy I would support as being non-discriminatory would be pairing adjacent constituencies and then selecting a male and a female to contest that pair of seats, with party members given two votes and being asked to vote for one male and one female candidate. This approach would mean that everyone had the same opportunity to be considered but we would still end up with women being half of those selected as candidates.

  • Trevor Andrews 24th Oct '21 - 10:27am

    As a human being and a LibDem I believe in fair play but I cannot see how “all women shortlists” is fair. We need the best candidate, not one just because they are female or black or with any other label. If we tackle the barriers so that everyone has an equal chance then that is democratic and fair.

    Nearly a third of MP’s are women and that is great and I am sure there will be more if women really want it. Only 11% of nurses are male so perhaps our energies should be put into getting a “democratic deficit” in the NHS especially as they have so many shortages. Perhaps you might recommend an all male shortlist for men in the NHS?

    I am not sure this “all male shortlist” would work as most men do not have the natural inclination to do this work, just as my wife, and most of her female friends would not go into politics because of the nature of the work. Let us focus on making the whole political arena one in which the electorate take a deeper interest and the environment a better one for all to work in.

  • Brad and Trevor – hope you will campaign for maternity leave for candidates to ensure a level playing field for female candidates.

    Totally agree with Trevor that the dearth of male workers eg in dementia care is a big problem.

  • Peter Hirst 28th Oct '21 - 3:26pm

    An MP getting involved in another party’s internal affairs is a sure sign of desperation. Short lists excluding certain categories can only be a temporary measure until their purpose is achieved. They are an example of political considerations outweighing other values.

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